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Manuel Puig: El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman)

The kiss of the spider woman is a metaphor for what I think of homosexuality, Puig commented on his novel. This novel, which has been not only a successful novel but also a successful play, film and musical, is an unlikely success given that it consists primarily of the conversation in an Argentinian jail between Molina, a middle-aged homosexual, and Valentín, a young revolutionary. What makes the book (and the play and the film…) so good is the two main characters, while initially despising one another, both as individuals but also for what they represent, gradually draw together, with Molina finally realizing that his homosexuality is a revolutionary act and that he has a lot more in common with Valentín than he realizes. Puig does not just tell us the straightforward story of the relationship between the two men but cleverly uses popular culture (including, of course, the cinema) to show the context in which the men live and, more importantly, dream.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish by Seix Barral 1976
First published in English by Knopf 1979
Translated by Thomas Colchie